What mattered is that Melky Cabrera and the bullpen had it and a little extra to complete a three-game sweep of the Reds with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory at Great American Ballpark. The Indians won the season series, 4-2, to win the Ohio Cup outright for the second time in the last three years.
Jose Ramirez was named MOP (Most Outstanding Player) of the Ohio Cup series. Ramirez, who hit .370 (10-for-27) with five homers and 11 RBI in the series, is the first unanimous winner of the award.
Cabrera gave the Indians the lead and the game with a two-run homer off lefty Cody Reed in the sixth. The Indians started the sixth trailing, 3-2, but Yonder Alonso walked and Cabrera hit a 1-0 pitch that barely cleared the left field wall.
"I didn't think it was out at first," said Cabrera, through team interpreter Will Clements, "because I hit it so high. But I knew I made good contact."
It was Cabrera's third homer of the season and his second in the last four games.
The bullpen has been a work in progress since the return of Andrew Miller from the disabled list and the July 19 trade for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Wednesday night the experiments continued as manager Terry Francona used Oliver Perez, Dan Otero and Tyler Olson to get through the fifth and sixth innings. Then he turned it over to Cody Allen, who breezed through the seventh and eighth innings on six straight outs.
It was the second time Allen has gone two innings this season, the first being April 4 against the Angels.
Hand pitched the ninth to earn his fourth save with the Tribe and 25th overall, but there was drama. Billy Hamilton opened with a bloop single to center and went to third on Jose Pereza's ground-rule double that got over Brandon Guyer's head in right field.
But Hand escaped as Joey Votto sent a soft grounder to first baseman Yonder Alonso, who threw home to get Hamilton. He struck out Eugenio Suarez — Suarez's fifth strikeout of the game — for the second out. But Scooter Gennett walked to load the bases.
Hand finally ended it by getting Curt Casali to fly out to Guyer in right.
"I was surprised Hamilton was going," said Alonso. "I figured where I was playing, if it was hit to me, it obviously needed to get past me (for him to try and score). I picked it up and I think he picked up the ball late. Then it was just routine. . .make sure you catch it, field it and put a good throw on him."
Cincinnati, outscored 18-4 in the first two games, took its first lead of the series in the first inning against a shaky Bieber. Pereza opened the inning with a double, but Bieber retired the next two batters. Gennett wouldn't let Bieber off the hook as he singled to right for a 1-0 lead.
Preston Tucker followed Gennett with a two-run homer.
The Indians got right back into the game with two runs in the second against Robert Stephenson. Rookie Greg Allen left a big footprint in the inning.
Allen singled home Jason Kipnis, stole second and took third on a fly ball to left by Roberto Perez. After Stephenson walked Bieber, Allen scored on Francisco Lindor's ground out to first to make it 3-2. Lindor dueled Stephenson for 12 pitches before finally putting the ball in play for his 75th RBI.
Bieber pitched into fifth, but after walking Votto to start the inning and allowing another single to Gennett, Oliver Perez replaced him with one out and the Reds still leading, 3-2.
Perez retired Tucker, but walked Tucker Barnhart to load the bases. Dan Otero relieved and retired Phil Ervin to end the inning.
What it means
The Indians trail AL West-leading Houston by 4 1/2 games for the right to host the ALDS. The Astros ended a five-game losing streak by beating Colorado on Wednesday night. The Tribe, trying to get back in the race for home-field advantage, has won five straight and 10 of its last 12 games.
The A's, in close pursuit of the Astros, lost to Seattle, 2-0, in extra innings Wednesday to fall two games off the pace in the AL West.
Oakland currently resides in the second wild-card spot behind the Yankees. Seattle's win on Wednesday pulled them to within 2 1/2 games of the A's in the wild-card race.
Bieber threw 90 pitches, 52 (58 percent) for strikes. Stephenson threw 57 pitches, 26 (46 percent) for strikes.
Thanks for coming
The Indians and Reds drew 17,275 to Great American Ball Park on Wednesday night. First pitch was at 7:10 p.m. with a temperature of 76 degrees before game times.
The Indians are off Thursday before opening a brief three-game homestand against the Orioles on Friday night at Progressive Field. Carlos Carrasco (14-6, 3.50), Adam Plutko (4-2, 4.75) and Mike Clevinger (8-7, 3.38) are scheduled to start for the Tribe. Baltimore will send David Hess (2-6, 6.25) to the mound on Friday and Alex Cobb (3-15, 5.31) is scheduled to start Saturday.
SportsTime Ohio and WLKR-FM 95.3 will carry the series. Fox Sports 1 will televise Saturday's game, which starts at 4:05 p.m.